Building Your Brand: Test Your Content, Not Just Your Keywords

Building Your Brand: Test Your Content, Not Just Your Keywords

1st February 2012

I was doing my usual shuffle through a few analytics accounts the other day, for interest rather than with a clear goal in my mind when this blog post occurred to me. Firstly apologies for again writing something that is not ‘in the news’ as such. I promise my next post will be about current events – from Google plus-ing to site mobile-ing and everything in between.

For now, back to the thought I had about content, brand and analytics.

Here’s my train of thought:

1. We all know that our analytics accounts tell us what content is working, what search terms people come in on and  even what search terms send the ‘right’ kind of people to our site.

2. We all know that we need to hone our keyword targeting in order to get those ‘right’ kind of people – even if we are limited to using endlessly frustrating tools like the dreaded Adwords Keyword Tool.

3. We all know we need to write content, using those target keywords, in order to get conversions.

4. How often do we think about brand visibility and its value alongside conversions?

Let me give you an example.

If you have a London hotel chain as a client, a clear target keyword could be [Hotel London]. Offshoots of that may be [Cheap Hotel London] or [Hotel Central London].

Nearly all of your content and blog posts will most probably in some way link back to these terms. However it’s been proven time and again that most consumers do not purchase on the first look. They will research, look around, learn more about the product and then eventually book.

Here is a time when more general content potentially comes into play. Although us, as SEOs, all too often write content with the sole purpose of link building/baiting. Perhaps we could look to test our content a little further and look beyond the traditional notion of ‘converting keywords’.

What is usually step 2 in a situation like this? Maybe we’d look to provide useful guides on the location of these hotels – e.g. [Things to do in London] or [Top 10 sites in Central London] usually with a convenient anchor text link back to the relevant page.

I’m not disagreeing with this. In fact, it’s definitely a help both from a brand and a link building perspective but I still think brands could look a little wider. Here’s an example we could use to link back into our London hotel chain.

Test content elsewhere

It’s not a new idea but I don’t think it’s used very often because people are concerned about quality or burning sites. My view is there’s two ways to do this:

1. Build up a whole heap of exact-match domain sites and fill them with relevant, cheap content. Monitor analytics and take your lesson.

Yes it works. It might not be something that everyone has the time or skill to do. It also requires some budget.

2. Test things out on a small scale.

I have a few blogs that I have purely out of interest really, no relation to work at all.  I don’t want to abuse them but I do write or share thoughts on them and their respective topics quite regularly.

Top Tip:

Writing can be cathartic and valuable. Make writing fun! The benefit for you may just be spending 15 mins of your day getting something of interest of your chest. The benefit for a wider set of websites could be a genius content idea that genuinely drives traffic.

In this case for example, I wrote an article the other day about not being able to sleep and did some personal research around the subject, again purely out of personal interest. What a waste! It drives a whole bunch of traffic to my site on not hugely competitive terms, and I’m not putting it to good use.

There’s an entire series of posts from that one topic just waiting to be abused! [Getting to sleep in unfamiliar territory] or [The lowdown on hotel pillows], or take it one step further and start to build sleep playlists. These can be made available in the rooms, can be contributed to by guests and the list goes on.

The key point here is that these keywords do not relate directly to the hotel, booking room, its location or all the regular things you would associate with target keywords for this particular niche. Revenue cannot be directly associated with it but brand visibility can.

And that leads me onto point number 2, monitoring that content…

Analyse Your Content from More Than Just a Conversion Angle

I was talking to a non-SEO colleague the other day about understanding the value of a client’s content. She was quite surprised when we discussed producing content plans from auditing existing work.

In a world where we obsess over conversions, backlink data, rankings and even just plain old visits – are we spending enough time expanding our content objectives instead of trying to find new ways to re-invent the wheel?

Some ideas for you to ponder:

1. Conduct a content audit regularly (not just keyword research)

  • What content that you purposefully planned brought in high traffic?
  • Where did this traffic go?
  • Were there internal searches?
  • Were there social referrals around the same topic?
  • How about downstream/upstream – did this topic take or bring people from elsewhere?
  • What content surprised you?
  • What seasonal content has/hasn’t worked?

2. Widen this audit out to other non-commercial blogs

  • What are the top new stories on news sites? Can you incorporate any of these often ‘novelty’ stories into things that relate to your brand?
  • Maintain personal interest blogs. Remember. Use a spare 15/20 mins. Write out a rant for the day, it could you bring valuable insight!!

Take It Offline, Make it Social

My final point to widening your consideration for content writing is to remember that traffic is traffic no matter where it comes from.

Yes, what we want is links. But as SEO becomes more social, don’t find yourself blinkered by anchor text and link building. Sometimes a great piece of content can give rise to a bigger idea that won’t get you direct links to that particular page but could generate buzz and links around the site 6 months later.

Take the idea of ‘Sleep Playlists’ as an example. Don’t tell anyone but I can say with certainty that a lot of people out there are looking for playlists that will help them sleep.

You could write a piece about that now, even generate a first playlist but that won’t get you decent links immediately, certainly not any that will affect your ranking.

Get the MDs of that hotel chain to buy into the idea, offering up free access to playlists in the hotel rooms or competitions to win a sleep aiding massage and so forth  and perhaps, just perhaps,  a few months later, there’s some serious PR that could be generated.

The key is in trying it out. Sometimes it’s not only about those direct revenue generating keywords.


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Written By
Originally from the UK via France and Malaysia, Annabel Hodges is a digital marketer with long experience in the industry now residing in Sydney. She heads up the Digital Marketing at Next Commerce, working across an array of products, channels and brands.
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